At the District 65 School Board meeting on Aug. 31, Superintendent Devon Horton gave an update on the criteria the District was looking at to reopen the schools for in-person learning.

“Currently the positivity rate in our Region – we’ve been assigned Region 10 – is sitting at 6.9. It has trended positive for 7 to 8 days in a row, which is not a good sign for us, but we also – I just want to be sure everyone understands as we look to reopen for in-person – our goal is to have a positivity rate to be 3 for the Region, 3 or less, and there will be discussions around that coming soon, and we will continue to share where we are with that information.”

The World Health Organization said on May 15 that the test-positive rate should be below 5% before opening an economy. A higher test-positive rate reflects that many infected people are not being tested.

More recently, the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) published a paper saying that a research/policy collaborative agreed that a test positive rate of 3% or below is a key indicator of progress towards suppression level testing.

The most recent 7-day test positive rate for Evanston is 1.3%.

The 7-day test positive rate for Region 10 was 6.9% on Aug. 28 (the most recent date for which data is available). The chart above shows the upward trend.

Region 10 is defined by the Illinois Department of Public Health as Suburban Cook County. On Aug. 28, IDPH put Suburban Cook County on a warning list, indicating that it saw an increase in at least two metrics the State is monitoring.

Yesterday, Cook County Government and the Cook County Department of Public Health launched the #MASKUP Cook County campaign to encourage young adults ages 20 to 29 to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19 in suburban Cook County.

“Cook County saw the biggest growth [in COVID-19 cases] in this age group between late March and late July,” said the County in a prepared statement. “During this time period, cases went up 250%, following the reopening of Illinois, with clusters of COVID-19 cases resulting from travel, parties and other social gatherings over the summer, where physical distancing and masking guidance were not being followed.

Cook County said that the biggest increases in cases has been the in these municipalities: Bellwood, Blue Island, Burnham, Cicero, Melrose Park, Park Forest, Des Plaines, Maywood, Palos Hills, Palos Heights, and Markham.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but we are now in the beginning stages of a second surge, and some schools are open, and colder weather and flu season are coming. Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, a co-leader of the Cook County Department of Public Health. “Mask up and back up to protect yourselves, your family and your communities.”

For more information on trends of COVID cases in Evanston, Chicago, Suburban Cook County, and Illinois and on recent research concerning testing and test positivity rates see this article. To keep informed on the latest news about Evanston and COVID-19 in Evanston and the Region sign up the RoundTable’s free daily newsletter.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...